The best and worse of Arsenal’s Europa League opponents
Usually at this time of year, I write a blog about what is the best and worst that an Arsenal fan can hope for from the Champions League draw. I take this into account such as:
- Randomness of trip
- Places we have not been before
- Stadium capacity
- Potential cost
- Difficulty of opponent
Last year I declared that PSG would be a great draw, as whilst it would be a tough game, the proximity to London meant a good crowd would go. I also suggested Ludogorets would be decent due to them playing in Sofia, the cheapness, and being semi-professional cow farmers.
I went to PSG away, and it was a top trip. A few of my lot went to Bulgaria, and they drank their body weight in alcohol for about £5 a night. Great trips had by one and all.
What we did not want last season was the likes of Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Dortmund or Olympiakos. Trips which it felt like we had made far too often recently. We avoided them, for the group stages at least.
This season it is not about the Champions League for Arsenal, but about the Europe League. This means a greater chance of venturing into the unknown.
With 12 groups, it means it will be impossible for Arsenal to play a half decent side in the group stages. The likes of Villarreal, Lyon and Lazio are in pot 1 alongside the top seed Arsenal.
Whilst the quality of potential opponents is not much to worry about, there are certainly some opponents that will lead to all my lot saying IN when we are drawn against them, and FUCK THAT.
So looking at the seedings, who are the ones I want, and the ones I really do not:
Pot 2 looks fairly depressing. You can take Everton out straight away, as you are unable to play sides from your own country. Do we really want Marseille again? And Ludogorets Razgrad we played last year. Everyone says it was a cracking trip, but it is never as great the second time around.
A cheeky trip to Berlin could be interesting – although I am bored of Germany (more later). I like the idea of Nice in early September. Bit of Riviera weather. But they are the best side in Pot 2.
Trips to Israel (Maccabi Tel Aviv), Russia (Lokomotiv Moscow), Switzerland (Young Boys) and Belarus (BATE Borisov) are of little to no interest.
San Sebastian (Real Sociedad) is supposed to be a great city, Steaua București ticks a lot of boxes for a cheap Eastern European jaunt.
Best Draw: Steaua București
Worst Draw: Lokomotiv Moscow
There are two German sides in Pot 3. You want to avoid both of them. Pretty much every Arsenal has been there and done that in Germany in recent years. We voted out. We want nothing to do with you Angela.
We can also tick off Astana and Hapoel Be’er Sheva. I have no interest visiting their countries. Also Atalanta is a no go. There are better places in Italy that I have want to, and have, visited.
Zorya Luhansk in Eastern Ukraine does not turn me on. Whilst a trip to Moldova to see us play Sheriff Tiraspol would be an interesting option that we would not usually get in the Champions League.
Rosenberg is certainly an option. Norway one of those countries yet to be explored. As is Portuguese side Vitória de Guimarães. Although there are others which I would prefer.
A trip to Belgium (Zulte Waregem) will always prick the ears up after the Anderlecht trip that I stupidly sold my tickets for. And Belgrade for Partizan is one that will tick those who want the Eastern Europe experience.
For me the stand out is Rijeka in Croatia. That just sounds like it will be a great trip.
Best Draw: Rijeka
Worst Draw: Either German side
Turkey (İstanbul Başakşehir & Konyaspor). No thanks. Same as Greece (AEK Athens) and Switzerland (Lugano).
Do We want to play Chelsea B (Vitesse)? And I am not too bothered about Macedonia or Albania.
Both Czech sides will always be of interest, and the same for Red Star Belgrade (see Partizan above).
Sweden (Östersund), like Norway, is one that you would be tempted by.
Apollon Limassol in September anyone? Cyprus. Hot. Yes please. That is the one.
Best Draw: Apollon Limassol
Worst Draw: Either Turkish side
So in summary:
Dream Draw: Steaua București, Rijeka & Apollon Limassol
Nightmare Draw: Lokomotiv Moscow, Either German side, Either Turkish side
The reality is, like last year in the Champions League, you want 3 solid options for an away trip offering a mixture of everything.
Draw time: 12-ish